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VOL. 37 | NO. 8 | Friday, February 22, 2013
The before and after of buying
When you spend several years selling, delivering and supporting a product or service, you naturally learn quite a bit about the logical questions someone should ask when they are contemplating buying the product or service you are selling.
For example, if you have sold used cars for more than a decade, odds are you would do an absolutely fantastic job of questioning another used car salesperson and uncovering the most important issues related to a typical used car transaction. With your experience, you may or may not be a great seller of used cars – but I’ll bet you would be a great buyer of used cars. Hopefully, you would be both.
For more than a decade now I, along with my partner, have owned a company that offers training and consulting services. In this article I will share a few “tricks of the trade,” so to speak, and offer a few suggestions on what I would ask about if I were on the other side of a transaction related to buying training and consulting services.
Unlike used cars, it is not always easy to determine a lot of specifics when buying training and consulting services. However, just because it is not easy, that does not mean you should ignore the specifics. As a matter of fact, finding out specifics is the main thing I would address with the potential seller.
Being more specific, here is the main question I would ask a training professional or consulting specialist: “What will I (or others working for our organization) be able to do (or do better) after spending time with you that they cannot do now?” Here is another slightly different version of the above question: “What will I know (or know more about) after spending time with you that I do not already know?”
Here is the follow-up question in both the above cases: “Why should that matter to me and my organization?”
If you can get clear and meaningful responses to these two questions, you can then move on to the less important details related to the transaction. If you cannot get clear and meaningful responses to these questions, caveat emptor! Treat the situation similar to a used car salesperson who seems reluctant to provide you with a legitimate vehicle history report or other details about the car you are considering.
Everything about a training engagement should be built around the before/after premise. That is what training is all about. In a way, the before/after proposition defines whether or not training has really taken place. Once you are satisfied with the responses to these two questions, ask anything and everything you are remotely curious about. Then wrap up your exploration by asking, “Is there anything else related to this engagement that I should have asked, that I didn’t ask?”
I used training as the example in this case because that’s what I do for a living. However, this same process and these same or similar questions will work quite well in many buying situations.
Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through www.dmetraining.com.